General Safety Mistakes | Here’s How to Protect Your Workers
Workplace safety has come a long way since the early nineteenth century when laborers were exposed to a variety of risks ranging from animals to steam engines. Despite advances in technology, the industrial revolution did little to change things for the better when it came to safety practices. Instead, production methods became even more dangerous because of labor-saving machines and processes that probably wouldn’t cut it these days.
Since then, agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have played a huge role in making sure workers’ safety and health received the attention it deserved. In fact, the U.S. occupational injury rate is 40 percent lower than when OSHA came to be in 1971. Still, even in 2022 too many workplaces remain dangerous with hazardous working conditions, poorly maintained equipment, failure to use safety guards, and lack of safety training.
Earlier this year, a worker at a northeast manufacturing plant died after from a serious fall. Investigators with OSHA determined employees were routinely unprotected from fall hazards. This unfortunate case raises all kinds of red flags when it comes to worker safety. And so, despite the progress made, it’s clear we still have a ways to go.
In this blog, we’ll examine some common safety mistakes and how to prevent them from happening below.
Common Safety Mistakes
1. Failure to Track “Near Misses” Among Hazardous Conditions
While this may seem like a no brainer, failing to recognize hazardous conditions in the workplace is more common than you’d think. And while some jobs are hazardous in nature (think roofing, logging, construction, etc.), there remains an opportunity to protect workers who must do their job within a hazardous environment.
2. Lack of Training
Not receiving proper training on how to use equipment and tools safely can lead to accidents and injuries. The workplace can be a busy place. And when push comes to shove, sometimes training gets pushed to the backburner, especially when crews are on deadlines and time is in short supply. Inadequate training, however, can affect a business in more ways than one when it comes to your bottom line. While it may seem like a time saver upfront, lack of training can negatively impact your business, revenue, team morale, and, not surprisingly, worker safety.
3. Improperly Using Equipment
Using equipment or tools improperly or not using them at all will lead to injuries.
A lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is more common than you might think. Whether you’re working in a laboratory, atop a building, or below deck on a ship, making sure you are providing your workers with the right PPE can literally mean the difference between life and death.
A lack of fall protection, as was cited in the death of the worker above happens too frequently. In 2020, there were 351 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These deaths were preventable according to OSHA.
4. Failing to Follow Safety Procedures
It’s important to follow established safety procedures in the workplace to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Not only are safety procedures needed to protect workers and create a safer environment, but they are often required by law. Ignoring or failing to follow established safety procedures can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, and can also result in legal and financial consequences for both the employer and the worker.
5. Lack of Communication
Lack of communication can be a significant problem in the workplace, particularly when it comes to hazards and potential risks. When workers are not adequately informed about potential hazards and risks, they may be unprepared to take appropriate precautions, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
When workers are not adequately trained or informed about equipment and tool safety, they’re more likely to make mistakes. Same for any changes to the work environment or understanding emergency procedures and protocol. Not knowing how to respond in the face of an emergency can put everyone at greater risk.
How To Avoid These Mistakes or Fix Them
1. Track Near Misses to Save Lives
Reporting hazards and near misses is an important part of maintaining a safe work environment. When you report a hazard or near miss, it allows your employer to take steps to fix the problem and prevent future accidents. This can include correcting a malfunctioning piece of equipment, cleaning up a spill, or changing a hazardous procedure.
It’s important to report hazards and near misses as soon as possible, even if you’re not sure if it’s a serious issue. By reporting potential problems early, you can help to prevent serious accidents from occurring.
If you’re not sure how to report a hazard or near miss, ask your supervisor or safety manager for guidance. They should have a process in place for reporting such incidents.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you notice something that could potentially cause an accident, speak up and report it. Your employer will appreciate your efforts to maintain a safe workplace, and you’ll be helping to prevent accidents and injuries.
2. Provide Training to Reduce Accidents and Injuries
Receiving proper training helps workers understand the potential hazards associated with different types of equipment and tools, and how to use them safely to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. It teaches workers the proper techniques for handling, operating, and maintaining equipment and tools, which can help prevent accidents and injuries caused by improper use.
Training provides workers with the knowledge and skills they need to recognize and address potential hazards, and to take appropriate precautions to prevent accidents and injuries. It helps workers develop good safety habits that can last a lifetime, which can help prevent accidents and injuries not only on the job, but also in their personal lives.
3. Using PPE and other Equipment and Tools the Right Way
From protective gloves to fall protection equipment to respiratory protection equipment, making sure your workers have the right type of personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to get the job done safely should be the standard.
At Pelsue, we cannot say enough about the importance of fall protection as a means of preventing injury and death as well to rescue workers from hazardous environments like confined spaces. Fall protection equipment is designed to prevent falls from heights, which can be a leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry.
Fast Fact: OSHA requires fall protection be provided at elevations of:
- four feet in general industry workplaces
- five feet in shipyards
- six feet in the construction industry and
- eight feet in longshoring operations.
Regardless of fall distance, OSHA also requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery like cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, backhoes, and excavators.
When used properly, fall protection equipment such as guardrails, personal fall arrest systems, and lifeline systems can help save lives and reduce injuries by providing a physical barrier between the worker and the ground. We discussed when to use fall protection in a previous blog as well as the different types of fall protection systems available.
It’s important to follow all instructions and guidelines for using fall protection equipment, and to regularly inspect and maintain the equipment to ensure it is in good working condition.
4. Follow Safety Procedures
Following established safety procedures is crucial for maintaining a safe work environment and preventing accidents and injuries. Safety procedures are put in place to protect workers and prevent accidents from occurring. They may include guidelines for using equipment, handling hazardous materials, and performing specific tasks.
We’re including these helpful tips that provide recommended practices for safety and health programs to help you get your own program started.
It’s important to understand and follow all relevant safety procedures in your workplace. This includes wearing protective gear when required, using safety equipment as directed, and following specific guidelines for tasks.
Part of establishing a culture of safety includes promoting effective communication. Employers need to establish clear lines of communication, conduct regular safety meetings, use multiple channels of communication, and promote a culture of safety.
If you’re not sure what the safety procedures are in your workplace, ask your supervisor or safety manager for guidance. They should be able to provide you with information on the safety procedures that are in place.
By following established safety procedures, you can help to create a safe work environment and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Further, Effective communication is key to preventing accidents and injuries in the workplace. When workers are aware of potential hazards and risks and are provided with clear instructions about how to stay safe on the job, they are better able to protect themselves and their coworkers.
Accidents happen. That’s why employers need to take the proper precautions on behalf of their employees to reduce and eliminate the risk of injury and fatality. However, by following proper safety procedures and being aware of potential hazards, you can help to create a safe work environment and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
What should I do if I am injured on the job?
If you are injured on the job, you should follow these steps:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible
- Report the injury to your supervisor as soon as possible
- Follow your employer’s procedures for reporting and documenting workplace injuries
- Cooperate with any investigation into the cause of the injury
How can I promote a culture of safety?
You can promote a culture of safety by encouraging employees to speak up about safety concerns and to actively participate in identifying and addressing hazards.
How do I choose a safety equipment supplier?
When choosing a safety equipment supplier, it’s important to do your research, ask questions relevant to your industry, needs, and associated regulations. Setting your priorities, checking for communication, and continually evaluating your relationship will leave you position to find a new supplier to meet your needs.
Is ergonomics important to worker safety?
Yes, ergonomics is an important aspect of worker safety. Ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their work environment, including the tools and equipment they use. Poor ergonomic design can lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and back pain, which can cause significant discomfort and lost productivity. Some ways to improve ergonomics in the workplace include:
- Adjusting workstation height and layout to fit the employee
- Providing ergonomic furniture, such as adjustable chairs and desks
- Ensuring that tools and equipment are designed for proper body mechanics
- Providing adequate lighting and reducing glare
- Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and stretch
Can proper fall protection help to ensure worker safety?
Yes, fall protection is an important aspect of worker safety, especially in industries where employees work at heights. Falls from heights are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities, and proper fall protection can help prevent these types of incidents. Employers are also required to provide fall protection training to employees who work at heights, as well as to ensure that employees use the fall protection equipment provided. By implementing effective fall protection measures, employers can help protect their employees from falls and prevent serious injuries and fatalities.
How often should I check and maintain equipment?
The frequency with which you should check your work equipment will depend on the specific equipment being used, as well as the conditions in which it is being used. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for equipment inspection and maintenance, and to report any issues or concerns with equipment to a supervisor as soon as they are identified. Regular equipment inspection is an important part of maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.